To make Baked Summer Grouper with Tomato-Basil Cream Sauce you’ve got to first find a top rate piece of fish. With grouper being pricey, you’ll also want to be sure you’re getting what you’re paying for, so when you make your selection, do so from a source that you can trust. (Did you know that the three top mislabeled species of fish are grouper, salmon and red snapper? Even the experts are often fooled.) The grouper pictured here came from the White Shrimp Company Seafood Market on St. Helena Island (843-838-7525) and was as good a piece of grouper as I’ve enjoyed anywhere, at home or in a restaurant.
Unless we catch it ourselves, it’s always a good idea to give fish the sniff test before we take it home, especially when purchasing fillets, when you can’t inspect the fish’s eyes, which should be clear and bright, or the gills, where pink or red and not dried are virtuous things. Plainly said, the fish should not smell “fishy,” but like the ocean. (The ocean does not smell like ammonia – a sign your fish is not fresh and has begun to decompose. And yes, this is as undesirable as it sounds.) Assuming you’re shopping with a reputable fishmonger and the fish smells like a day at the beach, you’ll also want your fish fillets to be of good color (no yellowing or browning) and moist looking, as well.
When you go to all the trouble of selecting as near perfect seafood as you possibly can, be certain whatever other ingredients you are planning to use in your recipe is of equal quality. But with fish dishes, of course, it all starts with the fish. So first, find a beautiful piece of fish.